We’ve All Got Lots of Stuff: Now There is Digital Stuff

When families prepare an estate plan and I ask for lists of property, very few remember to consider their digital stuff. If you haven’t considered these assets don’t worry – it is not that big of a deal,bur you need to correct it.

What is all this digital stuff? Digital stuff is:
–         Your photos (in my case, 17,000 pictures of three different cocker spaniels)
–         Files stored in the cloud or on your local computer
–         Virtual currency accounts
–         URL’s
–         Social media profiles (Facebook, LinkenIn, etc.)
–         Device backups
–         Databases
–         Digital business documents; and because technology is ever-changing, some of the people in Silicone Valley will figure out how to give us more digital stuff as time goes by

Some of this stuff has real value. There are things called virtual currency and you may have accounts that contain virtual currency. Additionally, PayPal accounts and things of this nature may have cash in them. Even your Subway rewards card has value, although it may be nominal. As a result, a wait and see approach for these assets is not a great idea. Whether you create an estate plan or not, what you are going to pass along is not just family heirlooms and general stuff. Now you have to consider all of your digital stuff. Here are three tips that might help you get started:
1.       Figure out all the digital assets you have. Make a list of all the online accounts that you use. Business owners should consider all the digital records, client files, databases and other digital business documents that you accumulate over time. However, those should probably be part of your business succession plan. Remember, if it exists on the Web, connects to the Web or pertains to it, put it on a list for your attorney or your personal representative or trustee.
2.      Designate a digital personal representative. A digital personal representative is a person you trust who can access your accounts and perform business on your behalf if you in the event your incapacitated or deceased. They will need to have access to your accounts and they will need to be able to access them quickly. Safeguard your list so it does not end up in the wrong hands or be subject to cyber theft on its own. Probably a paper list kept under lock and key is best.
3.      Get the right planning for your estate done and make a record of your wishes. Some of your digital assets may properly go into your trust. You should include specific access in a power of attorney. You should probably consult with an estate planning attorney to determine your successors, trustees and beneficiaries and then make sure that the right documents or designations are in place so access can be made when it is needed. The laws in this area are ever changing. Therefore, the planning you have done in the past may need an update.

Potential Pitfalls of Planning for Your Digital Stuff

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Your digital stuff needs to be incorporated in your estate plan. Failure to do so could result in a loss of your family photo albums, business records, bank accounts or rewards cards. We can help you identify, track and protect your digital assets to give you some peace of mind.

If you would like to talk about your digital stuff, please give me a call.

Doug Thesenvitz
Thesenvitz & Mickelson, LLP
(605) 334-9448